Vic Education tightens IT rules after Ultranet scandal

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Vic Education tightens IT rules after Ultranet scandal

Introduces new buying processes.

Victoria’s Department of Education has introduced strict new buying rules and improved IT management processes in the aftermath of its failed Ultranet project.

The state government’s corruption watchdog yesterday released the department’s response [pdf] to its investigation into the project, which labelled the procurement process behind the collaborative intranet project “corrupt”.

The Independent Broad-based Commissioner Against Corruption's (IBAC) probe uncovered a network of senior education officials and software salespeople that allegedly used Ultranet as a testbed to commercialise the software and licence it worldwide.

It found the project could have cost anywhere between $127 million and $240 million – more than double its original budget of $60.5 million back in November 2006.

In response to IBAC’s findings, the department said it had now strengthened procurement processes, particularly for projects with a value of over $150,000, by moving to a centralised model.

“The new operating model incorporates a move from a devolved procurement model to a centre-led model where an expanded team of procurement professionals will lead end-to-end strategic procurement activities on behalf of the department,” it said.

“To ensure accountability and transparency the procurement division requires all procurements of over $150,000 to be discussed with [the division] when they are being commenced, and to follow a strict process from the planning stage to contract completion.”

Procurements over the $150,000 threshold must also now “be approved by either the department’s chief procurement officer, the PPC [procurement and probity committee] or a procurement manager”, the department said.

A new "single stop" corporate procurement portal has been introduced to provide employees with “access information, resources and support”, and the department is currently looking to deliver a register for IT suppliers “available for use in schools”.

“Schools will be able to select suppliers from the list or choose to go through the assessment process for a supplier that is not yet registered,” the department said.

“This provides additional technical controls for the management of personal and sensitive information but also puts in place more documentation about ICT procurement.”

IT decision-making

The department said it has also improved IT project management by bringing together its IT services division with information management functions, and appointing former Edith Cowan University tech chief Elizabeth Wilson to the new role of CIO.

It said this had already streamlined decision-making and improved transparency over IT projects.

“Business units are supported by [the] IMT [information management and technology] division through the management and governance of projects that are appropriately scaled to the size, complexity and risk of the business need and ICT solution to be delivered.”

The amalgamation follows an external review that found “a whole of department approach to managing IMT was required to better support the strategic intent and deliver benefits”.

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